Managing the message has never more critical than the times we are now facing.
In this interview, Raminta Lilaitė, co-founder of Blue Oceans PR, offers her insights on managing the message as it relates to the current crises both internally to your staff, and externally to your customers and other stakeholders. Blue Oceans PR is a firm that offers support in global PR, Digital Marketing and Communications, with specific expertise in crisis management.
EM: How much information should business owners share with their staff? Is now a time to be guarded or transparent?
RL: When a crisis begins, employees need to understand how it will affect their work and the company itself, so it’s the time to be as open as possible. It is important to appoint a person or a team which will be responsible for sharing the information with employees. Staff should receive all mandatory information regarding the critical points and risks of a crisis, how to ensure a safe and responsible environment and how the work will look like from this point.
EM: What are the key steps to communicate with customers in a way that will ensure they stay with you when we all make to the other side of this crisis?
RL: Do not stop fostering relationships with clients, partners and investors. Use various communication channels, such as social networks, just to chat and show that you are responding to the situation. Clients need to understand that in spite of temporary troubles, the company is still in business and you are ready to help and answer any questions. The communication should take place regularly and be available at all times. It is important to stay open about the challenges ahead and how you are prepared to deal with them. Crisis can be a great time to re-communicate your company’s core values.
EM: Most small business owners have never been through anything even close to this crisis. What are the key mistakes to avoid when communicating with employees, investors, customers and the general public?
RL: Do not ignore the problem. A pandemic will inevitably affect your company and employees, thus talking about security and any foreseen plans during quarantine with clients, employees and partners should be a priority. Everybody needs to know clearly what your business plans are, whether the team will now work remotely or you will temporarily be out of business, how you can be contacted and how you are willing to help the others. This will allow the company to maintain seamless communication and provide clarity in shaping future communications.
Offer your expert advice to the press. While the first instinct in a crisis is to get away from it all, long-built communication efforts should not be suddenly dropped. Do not push the press away – continue talking about your company by fine-tuning your tone, as people need empathy and sensitivity at this moment. A good way to help is by actively offering your comments and company expertise. For example, if you are a virtual educator, offer tips on what to do with children at home, and if you are a private clinic, share insights on health care, etc.
EM: Any other advice?
RL: Give back to your community. There probably are people around you who need help – take a chance to find ways to contribute safely. Perhaps you can provide food aid to those who have returned from abroad and are in compulsory two-week self-isolation, or assist elderly people struggling to get the essentials – there are many safe opportunities to contribute to the community. Do good deeds and communicate about them, and it will encourage others to join in as much as they can.